This Day In Pop: Britney’s History-Making SNL DebutMay 12, 2019
19-years-ago, Britney Spears still had a lot to prove.
This Day In Pop is a reoccurring RX piece, where BreatheHeavy examines a monumental anniversary in pop music. Whether it be a blockbuster release, game-changing performance, live mishap, or something in between, we’re here to dig through the archives and highlight some of the biggest moments in pop music history.
On May 13th 2000, Britney became the youngest person in history to take on double duty at Saturday Night Live as the host and performer just three days before her second album was unleashed to the world.
With many critics likely waiting for her to fall victim to the dreaded sophomore slump curse so they could write her off as a one-hit wonder, the pressure would’ve been crippling for many. Not Britney, though.
At 18-years-old, she was six singles deep into her career and – while none had reached the dizzying heights of her 1998 debut ‘…Baby One More Time’ – in less than two years she had made her mark on a male-dominated, rock-heavy industry as a determined and captivating performer. Performances at the Grammys and MTV Video Music Awards proved she was a young pop chameleon keen to make every appearance unique à la Madonna, complete with epic choreography often inspired by Janet Jackson.
Her efforts to be recognised as the leader of a new generation of pop girls were louder and more confident in the Oops! era. Launching her second album campaign with that provocative red PVC catsuit, she made bolder statements from the jump off returning as an already-established act, while her most recent birthday lead journalists to believe they had free rein over her.
Although the ‘…Baby’ video was the centre of criticism and controversy, the Oops! era was the first time when the media really went hard on the pending Princess of Pop. It was also the first time she responded to the media, and this shaped a lot of her history-making SNL debut.
Britney’s hosting gave her the chance to show her personality beyond MTV’s Making The Video. Sketches allowed her impeccable comic timing to take the spotlight and her opening monologue gave her the chance to address wildly inappropriate rumours that’d been following her since the ‘Oops!’ video premiered.
At this point, there’s been countless rumours about Britney so it’s easy to forget but this was really the first major one to spread through the global media. What’s the rumour, you (younger stans) may ask? That Britney had had her ***** done.
Was it illegal for (predominantly male) journalists to report on an 18-year-old girl’s breast size? No. Was it immoral or predatory? I’d say so.
Such attention to any women’s ***** would be redundant nowadays but for the subject to be freshly 18 simply wouldn’t fly. Take Billie Eilish, for example, who has been celebrated for her musical talent and vision, and while many have focused on her young age – she’s currently 17 – there has been no focus on her body whatsoever.
Of course, we’re talking about two decades ago when Britney couldn’t simply jump on the Twitter app or her Instagram Stories to call out the gross rumours or clap back at journos. So, instead, she decided it was time to respond during one of America’s biggest late-night shows.
In true Britney style, she acted in on the joke with a wink-wink as she denied having surgery while a mechanical bra moved her ***** around. She smirked, it was a funny gag – was it still odd for the moment to be focused on her *****? I’d say so.
Aside from Boobgate, her appearance went down a storm as many were introduced to her playful side and stellar acting chops during the show. This SNL debut was really her first opportunity to showcase her triple threat status to the world who already knew her as an all-singing, all-dancing pop star.
Her impeccable comedic timing paved the way for her future appearances, from her lead role in teen rom-com Crossroads to record-shattering cameos in episodes of How I Met Your Mother, where she used comedy as a personal escape from the media chaos in 2008 and a way to remind the public of her natural gifts.
Nowadays stars can make their personalities known from one video post on their Instagram, something that Britney has adopted in recent years to share her personal skits and household pranks. To think about her rise to superstardom, though, this SNL hosting gig was the first real documentation of her goofiness that the world has fallen in love with for the past two decades.
Meanwhile, savvy to the fact that the opportunity would showcase her work to older audiences, her musical performances were also surprising.
‘Oops!’ received one of its most underrated live outings, as she nailed the choreography effortlessly while singing live (and well). For her second musical performance, she took advantage of the older demographics and showcased her vocal talents with a stunning performance of ‘Don’t Let Me Be The Last to Know’.
The gorgeous ballad – co-penned by Shania Twain and her ex-husband/collaborator Mutt Lange – was her most mature track to date. Romantic, sultry and intimate, Britney’s stunning vocal performance brings the sentiment to life, and this debut performance of the song was a real moment for her to show she was no one-trick pony.
It’s clear now to see that her first trip round the block had strengthened her for round two. 19 years ago, Britney was bold, brave, badass and not prepared to let the media write her narrative for her.
Proving herself to be a Triple Threat who was prepared to be dismissed as a manufactured, mindless pop star, it all paid off. Three days later, the Oops! album was released and set a new record for the highest first-week sales in America.
Did people stop talking? Certainly not. Did she cement herself as a pop legend? Without a doubt.